6 Steps to a Clean Acoustic Guitar
Let's be honest. Our skin gets dirty, oily and sweaty.
Not pleasant to talk about, but nonetheless true, and these natural secretions can take their toll on the guitar body, fingerboard, frets and strings. So whether your guitar is a regular pick-up and play instrument or a handcrafted masterpiece, it will doubtless benefit from this most essential of maintenance. So, let's get cleaning...
6 Steps to a cleaner Acoustic Guitar.
- Get a lint-free cloth.
Microfibre or lint free cloths are an essential in guitar maintenance. These soft cloths shouldn’t shed any unwanted threads which could leave your guitar looking dustier than it did in the first place. These threads also love getting stuck under fret edges too. So, a microfibre cloth is the way to go.
- Use Guitar Polish.
If your guitar has a lacquered (gloss) body, using a polish to clean it and bring back the shine is a good idea. (If your guitar has a satin finish, do not polish it!).
There are lots of types of guitar polish, and most are relatively similar. For a Faith Guitar, you should fine with any of the current brands on the market. We tend to use USA-made ‘Kyser’ polish, but you can try whatever you fancy. But.. you are always advised to try it on a small area first just to be on the safe side.
So spray a small amount of polish onto the lacquered parts of the body , and carefully wipe until clean and shiny. Be sure that your cloth does not have any grit on it. If you polish with a gritty cloth, you’ll be sorry!
NB: However, if you have an older or vintage guitar, you must be very careful. Most modern types of polish will use chemicals and silicon which can sometimes damage the lacquer on historic instruments. So seek professional advice before polishing your 1930s classic!
- But also.... Don't Use Guitar Polish (on satin-finished guitars) .
Yes, this does somewhat contradict the section above. So let's clarify: Don't use guitar polish if you have a Naked guitar or any guitar with a satin (non-gloss) finish.
These guitars cannot be polished as such, and due to the nature of the satin finish, will naturally mark and tarnish more quickly . However, you can carefully use a damp cloth to wipe away any marks you notice. But you need to stay on top of this much more than with a gloss-finished guitar.
Once a Faith Naked guitar (or any other satin-finished guitar) is marked or dirty, it is not possible to polish out or remove the mark . This is the characteristic of the simple finish type... the plus side of which is the great tone... and many people really love the fact that satin finished guitars get that 'played-in' look much more quickly.
As your skin naturally secretes oils, acids and minerals in perspiration, it is quite common for guitars of all types to mark and stain in areas that are most often in contact with skin, but this effect will be more evident on satin-finished guitars .
- Take care of your fingerboard.
The fingerboard on your guitar will most likely be made of Rosewood or Ebony, and unlike the body, it will be largely unsealed. This leaves the wood more susceptible to drying out and also leaves the pores open for dirt and grime to become embedded.
The most common thing to use for cleaning your fingerboard is Lemon Oil, although some people recommend other oils such asLinseed. In our Faith Guitar workshops we useLemon Oil for cleaning and moisturising both rosewood and ebony boards. Just apply a small amount to a dry, lint-free cloth (not the same cloth you used for the polish!) and rub it into the fingerboard between the frets. Try to ensure you get right up to the edge of the frets as this is the place that you’ll get the most build-up of grime.
If you have left it quite a while (!) since your last fingerboard clean, and your board is really quite unpleasant, you can use wire wool to clean any stubborn dirt that has bound to the wood and often gathered close to the edge of the frets. Note that you should rub gently with the grain of the wood, not across the grain. Wire/Steel wool will make a bit of a mess, and it's also quite dusty so you may want to wear a mask. Once cleaned, apply the Lemon Oil to nourish further.
- Clean your strings.
Unsurprisingly, the condition of your strings will have a huge effect on the quality of your guitar’s sound.
If you've ever picked up that guitar that your friend 'doesn't get round to playing much', you have likely experienced the feel of baked-in sweat, oxidants and grime, plus that 'thud' of completely dead strings.
Some people change their strings very frequently, and that’s to be advised if you’re a professional player with a heavy gigging schedule. However, for most of us who aren’t gigging every night, cleaning your strings after each session will ensure they last longer and sound better for longer too .
Again, there are a number of brand choices for string cleaner. In our workshops we tend to use Kyser string cleaner (we’re a fan of Kyser products), but there are others too. All you have to do is spray a little string cleaner onto a clean, lint-free cloth and wipe the strings. It will remove the oils and sweat from the string surface ensuring they sound good for longer . You can also buy string wipes, which are liquid and cloth in one. Even simpler.
If you use coated strings, you will find that they need cleaning less regularly, as they are already coated in a protective layer. However, they will still benefit from regular wiping. Your fingers and your audience with thank you.
- Put your guitar back in its case!
It's simple, but effective.
We all know that guitars look cool on the wall or on a stand in the corner of the room, but they’ll get dusty and dirty much more quickly, and there’s a higher chance of a passing child / dog / slightly drunk friend breaking it into tiny pieces. And no one wants that!
Plus, it's even better if you buy a humidifier for your guitar case. Then your precious can stay clean, safe - and - perfectly hydrated!
Bonus Step 7:
What about Viruses?
If you're handing your guitar around for others to play, perhaps you want to ensure that no nasty bugs remain.
Our friends at Champion have created a UK-made Disinfectant that has been formulated to safely disinfect your guitar. It has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, so will keep things just that little bit safer for everyone.
The solution is non-hazardous and fragrance-free. You just spray a small amount onto the required area and leave for at least 30 seconds then wipe off with a clean cloth. Where a deep clean is required, spray area a few times and allow solution to sit on the surface for 15 to 20 minutes.
Have a 'google' for Champion Disinfectant and you'll find it easily.